Isn’t peaceful parenting the same as permissive parenting?

The short answer is ‘no.’ Peaceful parenting isn’t the same as permissive parenting. I know first hand that sometimes, as peaceful parents, we feel powerless and clueless as to what to do.

We know we don’t want to hit our kids, we know we don’t want to yell, we know we don’t want to threaten them… we know all the things we don’t want to do. However, we are left with a void and many of us, who haven’t been raised in peaceful, respectful, positive families, don’t really know what to do instead. That’s when peaceful parenting might become permissive parenting. It’s a matter of us not having the right tools or the right knowledge to come up with a parenting plan that works for our family.

What is peaceful parenting and how do we apply it? After many years working with families, doing research, reading more books than I can count and learning from many experts, I’ve come up with these peaceful parenting guiding principles:

1. Self-regulation: Peaceful parenting starts with us. We need to be in control of our emotions, our own reactions, our own feelings. We need to be able to regulate our responses to our kids’ actions or inactions.

2. Consciousness: Peaceful parenting is ‘present, conscious’ parenting. This means being in the moment with our child, connecting with them in the situation we are in, letting go of our expectations of how our child should be and embracing him for who he is, letting go of our expectations of how our parenting should look like, and stop striving to raise the perfect child. It also means being aware of our own baggage, our past, and our upbringing; and see how they are impacting the way we are interacting with our children.

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3. Connection: Peaceful parenting is based on connection. We need to recognize that creating a healthy parent-child connection is our primary work as parents. This connection is also the key to our children’s optimal human development. Our success as parents is directly proportional to the strength of the connection we have with our children. So, every time you are going to address your child, remind yourself ‘connection before correction.’ Make sure you are connected with your child before you try to make a correction, so they will be more open to listen to your message and to collaborate with you.

4. Respect: Peaceful parenting is rooted in the idea that children are people too, and deserve to be treated as such. The simplest way to figure out if we are being respectful to our children is to ask ourselves: ‘Would I treat this way a friend or my spouse?’ and let the answer guide us in your relationship with your child. Would you expect perfect compliance and obedience from them? Would you hit or spank your spouse when she makes a mistake or doesn’t follow to your demands? Would you send your spouse to another room when he is having or giving you a hard time? Would you ridicule, label or belittle your spouse? … If the answers are ‘no’ then you shouldn’t do that to your child either.

5. Communication: Peaceful parenting stands on a foundation of open, honest trusting and non violent communication with our children. The words we say to our children matter and shape how they see themselves. Always remember ‘The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice’ Peggy O’Mara. When we talk to our children and involve them in decisions, when we communicate to them the reasons behind our actions, when we give them choices instead of commands, when we label their behavior instead of them, when we listen to them and their opinions, when we discuss ideas with them and value their points of view; we are helping them feel empowered, valued, strong, connected with us, and more open to learn and collaborate with us.

6. Empathy: Peaceful parenting cannot be applied unless we can empathize with our children. Empathizing with them means validating their experiences, their feelings and their emotions, without belittling them, without shaming them, and without dismissing them. Empathizing doesn’t mean agreeing with them or sharing their same feelings; it means accepting them and allowing them. Validating their feelings doesn’t mean condoning any type of behavior associated with that feeling. We need to understand that behind every one of our children’s behavior there’s a feeling, a belief or an interpretation. As parents we need to try to understand those feelings and let our children know that all emotions are acceptable. Once we’ve empathized with them, we can help them regulate those emotions and their reactions to them.

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7.Boundaries: Peaceful parenting is about setting limits for our children with kindness and respect. Children need freedom to explore, to make mistakes, to discover their potential and to learn on their own. However, as parents we need to provide them with boundaries as they exercise their freedom. Boundaries need to be: few, respectful, clear, explained in advance, firm, safe, loving, and purposeful. When we set a limit with our child, they need to know that we mean what we say. For example, if we have a limit that they can’t play on the front yard without supervision because the street is too close and it’s dangerous, we need to hold the limit. If they cry and protest because their friends’ parents let them do it, we still need to hold the limit. If we need to run inside to get a snack, they need to come with us inside or the snack can wait, we still need to hold the limit and we can’t let them outside alone. It’s all about setting limits that make sense for our family and keeping them no matter what.

8. Natural and logical consequences. Peaceful parenting rests on the idea of letting natural and logical consequences teach the lessons. A natural consequence is anything that happens without a parent’s interference. For example, when a child doesn’t want to put on globes to go to play in the snow, the natural consequence is that his hands will get cold and he won’t be able to play much, so he will naturally decide to put them on the next time. When we let our children learn from the natural consequences of their own actions, we prevent power struggles, avoid becoming the bad guy, and preserve our connection with them. In the instances when natural consequences can’t be applied, parents can establish logical consequences. Logical consequences must be few, related to the behavior, and respectful. In the example above, if there’s a risk of frostbite if the child doesn’t wear the globes, parents should step in, establish the limit and consequence. The child doesn’t get to play in the snow unless he wears the globes. The best way to phrase this with our children is using the ‘when… then…’ strategy. For example ‘when you put on your globes, then you can go play in the snow.’

 

Peaceful parenting isn’t about being perfect. We all make mistakes, I know I do! We are all imperfect people. Peaceful parenting is about learning and growing; it’s about wanting to be the best version of ourselves; and it’s about remembering that we are raising unique souls that have the right to make mistakes, experience life in their own way and be themselves.

Much love, Diana-

How to talk to our children after a mass school shooting

I can’t believe we are talking about this again. Another mass school shooting, this time taking the lives of 17 people in a Florida high school. When are school shootings going to stop? My heart breaks for all those affected by these senseless acts. Enough is enough.

After these horrific shootings, as parents we are left wondering: What should I tell my kids? Should I address this with them? How should I talk to them about these senseless and clueless acts?

1. Some children don’t need to hear about a school mass shooting. I don’t believe we should bring it up with toddlers, preschoolers or even young elementary school children, unless we think they are going to hear about it on their own, from teachers, classmates, playground friends, religious leaders, older siblings…

Remember that children sometimes need to ask the same question over and over and over again to process and absorb tough or difficult information like this. Be patient and ready to answer the same questions many times.

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2. Bring it up to your older children. They are going to hear about it anyway, and you want to make sure their questions are answered and any fears are addressed.

The first step would be to ask them what they’ve heard about it, ask them questions and invite them to ask you questions. It is perfectly ok to tell our kids that we don’t know why people decide to do these horrible things. Some people do awful, senseless, painful, irreversible and unexplainable things.

Thankfully, there are many more good people than bad people in the world. Remind them what Mr. Rogers always said “look for the helpers.” Make sure they see how people come together after these types of events, show them the first responders, policemen, emergency workers, ambulance crews, blood donors, anonymous heroes that protect their fellow citizens, people who raise money to support the victims, etc. It is amazing to see how kindness and love always rise up after these heartbreaking shootings, and our kids need to understand how resilient human beings are, and that love always wins.

3. Validate your children’s fears. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing their fears, you want them to open up with you, so you can help them cope. If you respond with a “you’re going to be fine,” or “don’t worry about it”, we risk them shutting down.

Instead, we can say something like “It’s OK to be scared and sad, I feel that way too sometimes when things like this happen.” We should speak honestly about our feelings about school shootings, so our children understand that they are not alone in feeling those big feelings.

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4. Reassure your children that they grown ups around them and their school have plans in place to do everything they can to keep them safe.

Discuss with them the safety procedures that are in place in their school. You can remind them that all the school doors are locked at all times, security cameras are located all around the school, and that all visitors need to sign in the front office before entering the building. It is also good to remind them how their school has drills to teach them how to react in case something goes wrong.

Even though, numbers are not in my favor, and in less than 2 months, there had already been 19 school shootings in the US; I truly hope we will never have to use this, and mass school shootings are a thing of the past. I hope our representatives take action and find the best way to end this senseless masacres once and for all.

Stay safe! Much love, Diana-

 

 

3 bulletproof ways to connect with your child

February is the month of love. The best way to make our children feel loved is to improve our connection and bond with them. As I mentioned in a previous post, every child’s love language is different. However these are three things we can do that will improve our connection with our child, regardless of what love language they prefer:

1) Talk and listen to them: ask them questions about their lives, get to know them, discover what makes them feel loved, figure out what you could improve as a parent, and take interest in their interests. Listen with the intent of getting to know them better and creating a connection.

Avoid jumping into immediate judgement or problem solving mode. As parents we tend to offer our advice even before our kids finish telling us their stories. That’s very disempowering for them, let’s learn to listen to them and sit with whatever they’re telling us.

I once read that when we are trying to improve our communication with our kids, we should consider ourselves to be on a “word budget”, and try to use as few words as possible. Listen more than you talk.

You will be amazed what a huge difference these simple changes in the way you communicate with your child, will make in your ability to connect with your child.

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2) Have special one on one time with each child: even if it’s just 10 minutes a day, make sure you connect individually with each one of your children. Of course, it would be fantastic if you can take more than 10 minutes a day, and if you can incorporate longer periods of time at least once a week.

This special one on one time doesn’t have to be a whole production. You can play together, read together, cook together, go for a walk, go for dinner, lay in bed before the lights go off at night… let them choose how they want to use those 10 minutes that they have you all for themselves. During those, imply BE with them, look at them, set aside the electronics, and dive right into your child’s world. You will be surprise how just 10 minutes of undivided attention can change your whole relationship with your child.

3) Find them doing good: make sure you point out when you see your child doing something good, so they feel appreciated and loved. I am going to give you an example, one of my daughters has been going through a phase of pushing boundaries for the past few weeks. We were trying everything we know, but were still not getting through to her.

A few days ago, I remember this positive principle ‘catch them doing good.’ So, that’s what I did, I started focusing on everything she was doing right, and making sure I told her, and it has made a huge difference. She feels better about herself, and she’s starting to do good things on her own without being asked, and taking the time to make the rest of us feel loved and appreciated.

On Valentine’s Day, when I came out of the shower I found my bed already made and two teddy bears on the bed, with a mom and dad hearts. I went downstairs and I learn that my daughter – who actually hates making beds by the way – had made our bed, bought Valentines for us, and placed them on the bed. It melted my heart!

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When we are going through rough patches, we sometimes forget that our children actually want to do good, and when we acknowledge all the good things they actually do, they just want to do more. When interacting with your children, remember the 5 to 1 ratio, for every criticism, correction or negative comment, we should give them 5 positive ones.

Let me know if you try following these tips, and how it goes!

Much love, Diana-

Nightmares and Night Terrors

Children spend more time dreaming than adults do, so they have more dreams—both good and bad. What is the difference between a nightmare and a night terror? Additionally, what should you do in each situation?

Nightmares are bad dreams that happen during rapid eye movement (REM) or dream sleep. Your child may be afraid to fall back asleep, and he’ll probably remember that he had a bad dream. A baby or child who had a nightmare is likely to have a clear idea of what scared him, although he probably will not be able to vocalize his fright until he’s about 2 years old.

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The best responses to a nightmare are:

  • Be there and offer comfort.
  • Stay with your child until she feels relaxed and ready to sleep.
  • Stay calm and convey to your child that what’s happening is normal and that all is well.
  • Reassure your child that she’s safe and that it’s OK to go back to sleep.
  • If your child wakes with a nightmare, stay with her until she feels relaxed and ready to go to sleep.

The best way to prevent future nightmares is to help your child confront and overcome his fears of the dark, such as leaving a nightlight on or having a special stuffed toy to sleep with.

Night terrors occur in at least 5% of young children and can start as early as 9 months. These mysterious disturbances happen during deep, non-dreaming sleep. When a child is having a night terror, they will cry, whimper, flail, and even bolt out of bed.

Although his eyes may be wide open, he’s not awake and isn’t aware of your presence. Night terrors can last anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour, or more. Once it is over, your child will return to a sound sleep, and he will have no memory of the incident in the morning.

The best responses to night terrors are:

  • Give him a gentle pat, along with comforting words or “shhh” sounds.
  • Make sure he doesn’t hurt himself.
  • Don’t speak to him, ask him questions, or try to hold or soothe him.
  • Don’t try to shake or startle him awake or physically restrain him—all of which could lead to more frantic behavior.

If it’s a night terror, in 15 to 20 minutes, your child should calm down, curl up, and fall into a deep sleep again. If it’s a nightmare, he might need a little more time to calm down and go back to sleep. To prevent night terrors, make sure that he is getting enough sleep, since children who go to bed overtired are more likely to experience these types of sleep disturbances.

I hope this was helpful!

Much love, Diana-

 

What am I doing wrong?

Today I’ve been thinking a lot about my own parenting. Over the past few year and a half there’s been a lot of emotional and physical challenges, and many changes in my personal and family life, which have inevitably affected my daughters, my relationship with them and our family dynamics. Unfortunately, in some areas we need to course correct.

Recently, I’ve been having issues with some of my daughters’ behaviors, nothing major, but some things that I would’ve never expected from them. I’ve been wondering at times, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ ‘What am I missing?’ I know the answers are within me, so today I’ve decided to ponder on this guiding principle, so I can figure out what I should improve within myself, so I can better guide them to improve their behavior shortcomings.

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Much love, Diana-

Your children are watching you

Sometimes we forget that what our children learn comes more from our behaviors than from our words. They are always watching us.

I believe that just being aware of this would help us be better parents. They notice our disposition when we wake up in the morning. They see how we live. They see whether we face the day with a smile and a great attitude, or whether we are despising getting out of bed and starting our day.

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They see how we talk to and treat our spouse. They see how we show love to each other, how we have conversations, how we disagree and grow from our mistakes, how we apologize, how we appreciate each other, how we forgive and we respect each other.

They see how we treat their siblings, how we address little mistakes, how we listen to their stories and worries, how we have fun with them, how we share little moments with them, and how we respect them as human beings.

They watch us and learn. When they grow up they will emulate what they’ve lived in their home. If we want them to be good citizens, kind people, respectful and loving spouses, present and caring parents… we need to be that ourselves.

What are your kids watching?

Much love, Diana-

Parenting is the hardest job

“The more people have studied different methods of bringing up children, the more they have come to the conclusion that what good mothers and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is the best after all.”

– Benjamin Spock, MD

Before we become parents, we see ourselves avoiding the mistakes we identified in other parents, balancing our professional and family lives, keeping our smiles and joy, being fantastic role models to our children, and knowing how to overcome all the challenges that might arise.

Once we become parents, we realize that there is a reason why people say that parenting is the hardest “job” out there (if done well!). We sometimes find ourselves at our wits’ end, not knowing what to do next. Others, we just go through the motions and see the days and weeks go by before our eyes.

Parenting should not be as hard as we think or we make it to be. Parenting should be smooth, full of heartwarming moments, and enjoyable. I’m not saying that it should always be fun, that it should come without challenges, and that it should be easy; I’m not saying that! Some days I feel like a total failure and I want to pull my hair out! What I’m saying is that we all can be the great parents we want to be, and that we can all have the Smooth Parenting Experience that we had always envisioned.

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Sometimes, we need to…

  • Take a step back and appreciate what we have.
  • Acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers.
  • Be aware and mindful of how our own actions, feelings, expectations, and emotional baggage are influencing our children.
  • Let go of the dream that there’s such a thing as a super mom or super dad, who always gets it right from the very first try..
  • Analyze what we are doing and improve it.
  • Take the back seat and let our children teach us how they need to be parented and what it is that really need from us.
  • Get support to solve the more challenging situations.

In any of these situations, we are taking action, and that is the first step to become the parent you want to be and have that smooth parenting experience. You can be the parent you want to be! Yes, you can! We can! … Maybe not all the time, and not every day, but we can be a better version of ourselves every day.

Much love, Diana-